Thursday, August 31, 2017

Book progress update - August

At the start of the year, I set a few reading goals, with the overall aim of trying to make my way through books I've had for a while and haven't read, and trying not to acquire too many new books. The goals were:
  1. Read at least 100 books in 2017 (approximately 2 per week; hopefully I can accomplish this)
  2. Buy/acquire fewer books each month than I remove from my TBR shelf/list
  3. Read or otherwise get rid of at least 1 of the books I've had since before 2015 (there were 4 on the list at the start of the year) and at least three of the books I  bought during 2015 (12 on the list)
They are (fairly) reasonable goals, which shouldn't stress me too much. In theory.

In January:  books read: 8; list reduced by: 2; pre-2015 reduction: 0; 2015 reduction: 1
In February: books read: 12; list reduced by: 11; pre-2015 reduction: 0; 2015 reduction: 1
In March: books read: 8; list increased by: 1;  pre-2015 reduction: 0; 2015 reduction: 0
In April: books read: 10; list increased by: 8; pre-2015 reduction: 1; 2015 reduction: 3
In May: books read, 14; list reduced by: 1; pre-2015 reduction: 0; 2015 reduction: 3
In June: books read, 9; list reduced by: 3; pre-2015 reduction: 0; 2015 reduction: 0
In July: books read: 7; list increased by: 5; pre-2015 reduction: 0; 2015 reduction: 1

How did I do in August?
  • I read 4 books from my list (The Summer Book by Tove Jansson, The Foreshadowing by Marcus Sedgewick, In a Land of Paper Gods by Rebecca MacKenzie, Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave)
  • I read part of and then donated back to a charity shop a book from my list (The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donohue (I struggle with short stories. I keep trying to like them more, but I don't always succeed.))
  • I started one book from my list, decided it would be just too depressing, despite being beautifully written, and put it in the charity shop pile (Blood Meridien by Cormac McCarthy)
  • I read one book I bought in Oxford before it really had a chance to make it on to my list, though I'll count it as an in-and-out (The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida)
  • And I read one book I had ordered online after reading a very good review - but again, I read it before I had a chance to add it to my list (The Keeper of Lost Things, Ruth Hogan)
  • I re-read four books which I already owned (Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen; the Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman - Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass)
  • And re-read (I think) one book which is part of  a series I'm re-reading in order, and to make sure I get all the ones I might have skipped along the way (The Death of Faith by Donna Leon)
  • I read three books which are going to be class texts next year (Skellig by David Almond, The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce, Floodland by Marcus Sedgwick)
  • And I read one book which someone else had in the house already (Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira)
  • I bought two books in Amsterdam by Dutch authors, in translation, and three books in Waterstones in Oxford
August goal progress:
  1. books read: 15 of 32 books 
  2. books removed from list: 6; books added: 5; net result -1
  3. books read/removed from list from before 2015: 0 of 3;  from 2015: 1 of 3

Here's the updated list of Books to Read in 2017.  There were 46 books at the beginning of January, and now there are 41 (but a lot of them are different! (Books acquired in 2017  are underlined and a quick look below shows that only 13 books are left on the list from last year or before)).
  1. Peter Ackroyd, Hawksmoor (charity shop, April 2017)
  2. Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky (charity shop, October 2016)
  3. Elizabeth Aston, Mr Darcy's Daughters (from Taffy's house in Florida, April 2017)
  4. Susan Barker, The Incarnations (charity shop, July 2016)
  5. Philip Baruth, The Brothers Boswell (Waterstones Canterbury bargain bin, July 2015)
  6. Mikhail Bulgokov, The Master and Margarita (charity shop, April 2017)
  7. Jessie Burton, The Muse (Waitrose, January 2017)
  8. Joanna Cannon, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (Mother's Day 2017)
  9. Becky Chambers, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Book People, May 2017)
  10. Tracy Chevalier, At the Edge of the Orchard  (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  11. Emma Donohue, The Wonder (Waterstones Nottingham, July 2017)
  12. Ford Maddox Ford, Parade's End (Nov 2012 - birthday present - bought after the BBC adaptation - but I knew I wouldn't read it straight away as I wanted to let time pass from the adaptation.  Enough time has probably passed now...) *
  13. Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl (Waterstones Wimbledon, July 2017)
  14. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (would be a re-read, bought shortly after his death - spring 2014 - as I was reminded how much I enjoyed it and I didn't seem to own a copy - think my old one fell apart, probably...) *
  15. Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South (2014)*
  16. Linda Grant, The Dark Circle (Waterstones Nottingham, July 2017)
  17. Hella Haasse, The Tea Lords (Bookhandel von Rossum, Amsterdam, August 2017)
  18. Mark Haddon (Introduction), Experiences at the Edge of Consciousness (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  19. Siri Hustvedt, A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women (Waterstones Wimbledon, July 2017)
  20. John Irving, Avenue of Mysteries  (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  21. Lynn Knight, The Button Box  (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  22. Ernest van der Kwast, The Ice Cream Makers (Amsterdam, August 2017)
  23. Neil MacGregor, Germany: Memories of  a Nation (birthday present, Nov 2016)
  24. Alice Mattison, The Book Borrower (Used Book Depot, Vero Beach, April 2017)
  25. Elizabeth McKenzie, The Portable Veblen (Mother's Day, 2017)
  26. Magnus Mills, The Restraint of Beasts (Abe Books, May 2017)
  27. Kiran Millweed Hargrave, The Girl of Ink and Stars (Waterstones Wimbledon, April 2017)
  28. Alice Munro, Runaway (Waterstones Piccadilly, March 2016)
  29. Patrick Ness, More than This  (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  30. Flannery O'Connor, Complete Stories (charity shop, December 2015)
  31. Michael Ondaatje, Divisadero (charity shop , April 2017)
  32. Orhan Pamuk. A Strangeness in Mind (Christmas present 2016)
  33. Sara Perry, The Essex Serpent (Waterstones Nottingham, July 2017)
  34. Natasha Pulley, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (Waterstones Wimbledon, December 2016)
  35. Anna Richards, Little Gods (pound shop, November 2016)
  36. Marcus Sedgewick, She is not Invisible (Waterstones Oxford, August 2017)
  37. Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram (Abe Books, July 2016)
  38. Jane Smiley, Early Warning (Abe Books, May 2017)
  39. Elizabeth Strout, My Name is Lucy Barton (Waterstones Nottingham, July 2017)
  40. Sally Vickers, Cousins (Waterstones Wimbledon, July 2017)
  41. Lucy Worsley, A Very British Murder (Waterstones Oxford, August 2017)

Dinner, 31/8/17: Mushroom Risotto

I always do the risotto and the mushrooms separately. This accomodates the non-mushroom-eating children (2/3 of them; one vehemently so).

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dinner, 30/8/17: Pesto Pizza with Artichokes and Prosciutto

A firm favourite.  We love this. What can I say?

Book 82: Everyone Brave is Forgiven, Chris Cleave

Super. I've been very pleased with other Chris Cleave novels I've read before (Incendiary, Gold, The Other Hand) so I was fairly confident I'd enjoy this, but you can never be 100 per cent certain. It was an excellent story of characters finding their ways during a hard time and I really enjoyed it. Found it very compelling.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Dinner, 29/8/17: Stir Fried Tofu & Vegetables

New (to me) brand of tofu in this - really excellent at holding its shape, which is great for stir frying. Might even try a crispy fried tofu recipe using it. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Dinner, 28/8/17: Spicy Enchiladas

A family favourite. I added a second tin of beans to what's called for in the recipe, and used up two extra tortillas we had hanging about. Which means there should be leftovers for lunch...

Book 81: The Death of Faith, Donna Leon

This is the 6th in the Guido Brunetti series; I am gradually reading/re-reading my way through them. I never really made an attempt to read them in order before, so there are some that I've missed along the way. This one I think I've read before but my memory of it is very vague and hazy, which probably either means I haven't read it before after all, or that I read it when one of my kids was a baby - my memory from those periods is very poor!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Dinner, 27/8/17: Prawn & Courgette Curry

Neither of the girls were due to be home for dinner, so it was a good opportunity for prawns, which they don't really like. When the kids were littler and we all ate dinner together most nights, I did serve things they didn't really like and just expect them to eat, but now that there are many times when we don't have everyone here, I try to fit the dislikes around the absences of those people. It doesn't always work (for instance, Olivia frequently ends up picking peppers out of things, because so many things have peppers in), but for something like prawns, which aren't cheap anyway, it makes sense.

Book 80: In a Land of Paper Gods, Rebecca MacKenzie

As mentioned on the cover, this story was slightly reminiscent of The Poisonwood Bible, in the sense that it's about missionaries - or rather, the children of missionaries - but there, the resemblance stops, really. I enjoyed the story, though I did find the protagonist a bit too annoying at times. It was very evocative of place, though, which was interesting to read.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Dinner, 26/8/17: Sausage & Fennel Pasta

This was a use-up-bits sort of quick dinner - two half packets of pasta, two half containers of creamy things (one creme fraiche, one sour cream), along with some chopped up sausages, rocket, garlic, fennel. Easy.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Dinner, 25/8/17: Chicken, Olive & New Potato Salad (Sarah cooking)

Finally a summery day; here's a summery meal to go with it...

Book 79: Floodland by Marcus Sedgwick

Another of our class books for next year, this time by an author I know and have read other things by. This one is shorter, and aimed at a slightly younger audience than the other two I've read, but still an excellent story. 

Book 78: The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Another of the books which we're reading for class next year. This is much more of a straightforward kids' book. It was a cute story and is well written, but it's not something I'd read as an adult for my own pleasure - nothing wrong with it, but it's much more firmly in the category of childrens book than Skellig, or than many of the young adult titles I read. I think the kids will like it, though. It's got some nice messages in it without beating you around the head with them, and it's pretty funny.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Dinner, 24/8/17: Spinach, Chickpea & New Potato Curry

One of the meals we have the most in our house - it's our favourite chickpea based curry. And we've tried lots of them. It's easy, tasty,  healthy and pretty quick, so you can't beat that. We usually serve it with some sort of flatbread; that, of course, is up to you!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Dinner, 23/8/17: Soba Noodle & Cucumber Salad; Dumplings (Geoff cooking)

The dumplings are not homemade; they were in the freezer, from the Korean supermarket. Although our dumplings had chicken in them, I'm tagging this meal as vegetarian & vegan, as you could buy whatever kind of dumplings you liked. The soba noodle salad, to which Geoff added cashews, is accessible to all.  This is not actually the recipe we used, which I can't find, but it's essentially the same (except for the parsley sauce). 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Book 77: Skellig by David Almond

This is actually one of the books we're reading in class next year, so I wanted to get ahead - I have a stack of 4 more waiting. My kids have all read this, either with a class or independently but somehow I never got to it - it's a remarkable story. And will be really interesting to see what a bunch of 10 year olds make of it.

Dinner, 22/8/17: Wholemeal spinch & potato pies

We love these, but don't have them as often as Geoff would like because they take a bit more time than we usually have for a weeknight dinner. Luckily, summer allows for a bit more leeway that way. And of course I made enough to have some leftover for lunch the following day...

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Dinner, 19/8/17: Sausages, mash, cabbage

Sausages from an excellent local butcher (Bevan's - via Garsons Farm)...

Friday, August 18, 2017

Book 75: The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

Picked this up in Oxford the other day and started it on the bus back to the park and ride. It's a very quick read; a sort of Q&A about autism, written with sensitivity by a young Japanese boy (13/14 at the time of writing) with autism. Interesting insights into why some autistic people act and react in certain ways. I think his second one will be even more interesting as it's written when he's older, and will probably be a little more in depth. 

Dinner, 18/8/17: Pizzas

Homemade pizza night in the North household - mine this time was a white pizza (no tomato suace) with cheese, pepperoni, jalapenos, artichokes. It was yummy...

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Book 74: The Foreshadowing by Marcus Sedgwick

There are days when I think I will just curl up and read Young Adult fiction forever... There is so much really good stuff out there in that genre; Marcus Sedgwick is a relatively recent discovery and he's really brilliant - this one is the story of a young girl who finds that she can foresee people's deaths - not a great power at the best of times, but when it's the First World War and you have two older brothers, perhaps even less great. An excellent book.

Dinner, 17/8/17: Asian Chicken Dumplings with Spiralized Vegetables

We really like this dish; the raw, dressed, spiralized veg are perfect for a summer supper. This time we used carrot and marrow as I had another marrow from our recent visit to Garsons Farm to use up. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Books in

Well, we were in Oxford today with Geoff's brother and sister in law, and we popped into Waterstones so Geoff could pick up a few books - his reading shelf was running low (unlike mine, I know, I know). I was fairly restrained, buying only these, two of which are actually non-fiction, and the other a young adult title. I've actually already started one of them on the bus back to the park & ride; it will be a quick read.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dinner, 15/8/17: Thai sticky chicken & ribs, corn, new potatoes

This was Sarah's choice - she made the marinade and cooked the ribs and chicken (which were excellent). The corn and potatoes were just boiled, so it wasn't really tricky...

Monday, August 14, 2017

Book 73: The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

Last in the trilogy, which I've been re-reading. Reminded once again of how excellent these books are. Brilliantly constructed world, great characters, compelling plot, not to mention a strong argument against organised religion at the same time as being an even stronger argument towards individual morality and responsibility to the rest of the world... 

Dinner, 14/8/17: Stuffed Marrow

Originally, I had planned something else with the turkey mince that this recipe uses, but then we went to Garsons Farm (a pick-your-own place) last week, and I couldn't resist buying a couple of marrows. (This only used one of them; not sure what I'll do with the other one. Maybe spiralise it.)  So I stuffed it with turkey mince, cooked with herbs and tomatoes; there's a cheesy breadcrumb crust on top. Really tasty, though I think I'd definitely peel the marrow next time as the skins were a little tough.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Book 72: The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullman (re-read)

Second in the Dark Materials trilogy, which I am re-reading. Still excellent.

Dinner, 12/8/17: Pasta Bake (Alex cooking)

Earlier this year I threatened my family with the idea that I wasn't going to plan meals, shop, or cook in August. I'm not sticking to this, but I am requiring a lot more involvement from them, so this was Alex's contribution to our "Everyone Does More Cooking and Stuff in the Summer" movement. (Love the catchy title!)

Friday, August 11, 2017

Dinner, 11/8/17: Cauliflower Cheese, sauteed potatoes (Geoff cooking)

Not normally a dish you'd choose in August, perhaps, but although the weather is somewhat better than it was, we are not in the midst of a heatwave, so a little cauliflower cheese is just the thing. Especially when someone else is cooking it...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dinner, 10/8/17: Corn on the Cob; Chicken Soup

Forgot to take a photo of the soup - the corn came from the Pick-Your-Own place (Garsons Farm), so it was actually growing in a field until about 11am. A very nice first course before our soup.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Book 71: Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (re-read)

For some reason I got a craving to re-read these; I think it's because I read an article about his new book set in this world coming out soon. Anyway, still excellent, even on a third read through; expect the other two shortly!

Dinner, 9/9/17: Spaghetti Pomodoro (Gino D'Acampo)

A very simple pasta with tomato and basil sauce. We also had some garlic bread from the freezer, but this one is about as simple as it gets. You can, of course, grate lashings of Parmesan over it, if you so wish.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Monday, August 07, 2017

Book 70: Sense & Sensibility, Jane Austen (re-read)

Technically, this is a re-read, though I haven't read it in years. It's not my favourite (Persuasion) but it's certainly well above my least favourite (Emma). And as usual, parts of it are very funny. Glad to have re-visited it.

Dinner, 7/8/17: Pork and Veg Stir Fry

Served with rice (not shown).  I had some pork fillet in the freezer from something, so this was an exercise in using it up, along with whatever veg was either in the fridge (carrots, yellow pepper) or readily accessible at our local shop (courgette, chard, chilis). Along with some oyster sauce from the cupboard and some soy sauce and rice. Easy.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Dinner, 6/8/17: Roast Belly Pork, Roast Potatoes, Pak Choi

This small roast was from the farmers market, and was very tasty. There was gravy, too, but I seem to have photographed my plate pre-gravy, rather than post. And there was blackberry ice cream for dessert, but no photo of that.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Blackberry Cobbler

Gorgeous - really nice use for blackberries, great recipe from

Dinner, 5/8/17: Pea and New Potato Curry

We like the taste of this, but the potatoes cooked very unevenly, with some done and some virtually raw. This despite lots of stirring, etc. Strange.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Dinner, 3/8/17: Fajitas!

The usual assortment of fajita fillings, except this time I added some spicy tofu to the mix as well (which was really tasty) to cater for a vegan friend of Olivia's, who was eating with us (most of the rest is vegan-accessible as well, except the chicken, cheese and sour cream)...

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

When in Amsterdam...

take a canal tour. 

Doesn't really show in this photo, but you can see down through about 7 bridges in a straight line down this canal.